Festibond, the annual Danler holiday we started several years ago, has been a very rewarding and wonderful tradition for our family. Each year we choose a day at the end of December to celebrate Festibond. In the two weeks leading up to Festibond Brent and I have one-on-one dates with each of the girls and with each other. It is a valuable part of our bonding with each other, and I absolutely look forward to them.
This year we decided on December 29 for our Festibond. We always start out the day going out to eat for breakfast. Brent suggested The Good Table Restaurant in Cape Elizabeth this time. We wanted a place with good food and a nice atmosphere in which we could sit and talk without distractions. It was fun to be entertained by the girls and their singing and jokes as we drove up to Cape Elizabeth. The food was alright, but not amazing. However, when we all tried Hayley’s cinnamon bun we agreed that it was very good; each of the girls ordered one to take home. I enjoyed sitting with Brent and the girls around the table, talking, laughing, and discussing ideas and plans for the future.
One thing we added to Festibond this year was for each person to contribute something to our buffet of finger foods to snack on throughout the day. Skye loves apples and decided she’d like to make apple chips in which she soaked apple slices in cinnamon and apple juice, then baked them until they were crispy and dry. She wasn’t happy with the way they turned out, and decided next time she would use the mandolin so the slices would be even and cook uniformly. Nevertheless, I thought they were pretty good. Jenna made “pigs in a blanket”: mini cocktail wieners rolled up in crescent rolls. Very tasty! She loves Brie cheese with French baguette slices, so she added this to the menu as well. Hayley, our little baker, made chocolate crinkle cookies with chocolate toffee bits in them. She did great; they were delicious. Brent and I collectively put together a relish tray with raw vegetables, dip, pickles, olives and cheese. Hayley (who enjoys making her food look pretty) arranged a cracker plate to go with it. It was nice to watch the girls working independently and working together as well.
My favorite part of Festibond is the reading of our letters to each other. We spend the weeks preceding Festibond writing personal letters to each member of the family. In the past we have had them printed out and even made booklets, but this year we decided to go digital which is much better for archiving. We all gathered together on the bed late in the morning; Skye started out this activity by reading her letters, hugging each person after reading her letter to them. We took turns reading our letters and hugging each other. The intense feelings of love and appreciation demonstrated in the heartfelt and thoughtful words written in each of the letters will always be with me. The smiles, laughter, and tears were genuine and meaningful. I love the way these letters strengthen our family bonds and bring us closer together.
I picked out a few excerpts to share from the letters:
Skye to Jenna:
As you are getting older, it’s cool to be able to talk to you about boys and stuff without it being weird, since we are both maturing. It’s been easier to talk to you since we have more adult and weird things to talk about. We can have more mature conversations and I can give you advice and tips on things.
Skye to Brent:
You help me through difficult times even if that difficult time is between us. We may go through hard times, but in the end, we understand each other and put the past behind us. This brings me to my next point. You’re a great listener. Plus, you are one of few people that can admit their mistakes. That’s a great characteristic to have, rather than believing something and not listening to reason. You have your own opinions, but you listen to others before deciding which is the best answer. You’re always right anyway.
Jenna to Hayley:
I like how you express your feelings. When you are happy, you show it. When you are sad, I know. And especially when you’re mad. You say your opinions. I know so much about you because of that. It feels like you are part of me. You are so predictable, it’s like we share the same brain.
Jenna to Kirsten:
You have a lot of good qualities. One is that you seem to think about what you say before you say it. Also, like Dad, you always seem to have a solution for everything. It is strange, but it does seem like that is true. I can tell you anything, because I know you will understand. I learned so much about you during lunch and the ride home (during our Festibond date), and I wish I could’ve been born in 1973 so I could’ve met you as a kid. That would be interesting.
Hayley to Skye:
You’re so smart. I’m very proud to have a sister that’s on the math team and in reading GT that probably knows more than anyone in her class! You’re super amazing are probably the smartest person in your school! Whenever I see your math homework, my mind starts boggling about how you can possibly do it.
Hayley to Kirsten:
I love that I can tell you anything like when I’m at school and something really exciting happens, I make a mental note to tell you as soon as I get home. I’m super glad I have somebody like you that I can share my thoughts with! And I’m glad you listen unlike a lot of people I know and that you always respond what you think about whatever it is I’m talking about. I love that I have a mom thats not all boring and has a good sence of humer! I really enjoy hanging out with you especially when you’re in the mood for a good joke which you almost always are and I really like that about you.
Brent to Skye:
You’ve always been highly social, and because of who you are people naturally want to be with you. You’re sweet and smart and “cool.” You also seem to choose your friends well, letting go of people who you determine are inconsistent with your values and the high goals you have set for yourself. That is another very important attribute you are cultivating well.
Brent to Jenna:
I love to talk to you about your hopes and fears and desires and annoyances. I love your humor and hugs and high-fives. You are often funny and silly and playful, but beneath all that is a thinker and a girl with genuine compassion. It’s funny that you fret over the slaughter of an innocent ant in the driveway, which subtly exposes your caring side.
Brent to Hayley:
I love that you love to talk, and I enjoy our conversations a lot. You think out loud, like I do, which is nice because I can get some idea of your thought process, which helps me to understand you and offer corrections where appropriate. It’s amazing to me the things you come up with, and the connections you make from one fact or phenomenon to another.
Jenna suggested during a recent “family night” that we include a talent show with Festibond. We all agreed it was a good idea. Brent treated us to a ballet performance. It was very entertaining. If software developing or hairdressing don’t work out, I think he has a good fallback. ;-) Skye recently began learning to play the guitar and prepared a song which she played and sang for us. I am impressed with how quickly she is picking it up and improving, and I love to see her so dedicated and so excited about it. Jenna learned a new violin piece and gave us a beautiful performance. I love the feeling and expression she puts into it. Hayley performed “Happy Llama, Sad Llama,” a silly song which includes funny hand gestures. She can do it amazingly fast; it was so cute and made us all laugh.
Another part of our Festibond tradition is playing games together. This year we enjoyed a game of Charades, Guesstures, and “Huckle Buckle Beanstock,” a game Brent grew up playing and has become a family favorite for us. Hayley hid the penny a little too well, and we only ended up playing one round. Following our games we watched the first of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Skye’s choice.
Festibond has been such a wonderful and meaningful tradition for us. I treasure every part of it and love the way that it brings us closer together and enhances our appreciation for each other as well as for our family as a whole. We have discussed adding another Festibond in the springtime. As valuable and enjoyable as it has been for our family, I think it’s a great idea!